OCWD Board of Directors

Cathy Green
First Vice President
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Second Vice President
Philip L. Anthony
Jordan Brandman
Shawn Dewane
Jan M. Flory, ESQ.
Dina L. Nguyen, ESQ.
Roman Reyna
Stephen R. Sheldon
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
General Manager
Michael R. Markus
P.E., D.WRE.

President's Message –
Responsible Stewardship &
Environmental Enhancement
Environmental stewardship in the water industry is an ongoing balance of the complex needs of humans, plants and animals. There will always be environmental challenges that compete for north and central Orange County's precious water. It's fascinating to learn how an ecosystem can include the positive involvement of man to benefit all.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is a leader in water and natural resource management, carrying out award-winning environmental programs while providing water supply benefits. As an example, OCWD manages the largest constructed wetlands—the Prado Wetlands—on the west coast of the United States in the Prado Basin, which benefit nature and also, organically, remove nitrates from Santa Ana River flows.

Nitrate removal at a conventional treatment plant would cost approximately $15 per pound, compared to about $0.85 per pound using the natural wetlands process at a savings of $5.2 million. The wetlands currently remove nearly 350,000 pounds per year from the Santa Ana River (SAR).

In addition, the Prado Wetlands are part of a year-old pilot project done in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt). ReNUWIt is comprised of researchers from Stanford University, UC-Berkeley, Colorado School of Mines, and New Mexico State University. Known as the Prado Open Water Unit Process (POWUP) project, it is investigating the use of vegetation-free, shallow ponds to provide a broader range of water treatment benefits to SAR flows with reduced maintenance costs.

Protecting the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which provides water to more than 2.4 million people in north and central Orange County, from encroaching development and possible industrial contamination has also helped nature.

For the past 80 years, the Orange County Water District has acquired properties along the Santa Ana River, both below and above the Prado Dam. OCWD has now dedicated more than 1,100 acres of land for environmental projects in Orange County and has been one of the forerunners of proactive water conservation in the area. OCWD has also been involved in several environmental programs over the years, including the Santa Ana River Watershed Program, which is attempting to counter-balance human-induced changes on the river through control of invasive species, habitat restoration, wildlife management emphasizing endangered species, and public education and involvement.

Basin Conservancy

The Orange County Water District owns and manages 2,150 acres behind Prado Dam in Riverside County. This and the remainder of the upstream area of the dam feature the single largest area of forested, riparian habitat remaining in coastal Southern California. It is rich in plant and animal life including rare, threatened and endangered species. This productive and rare ecosystem supports more than 311 species of plants, seven species of amphibians, 13 species of reptiles, and more than 230 species of bird including 11 raptor species and 23 mammal species.

OCWD continues to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conserve storm flows behind the dam in order to support OCWD's recharge program--saving water users millions of dollars in imported water purchases.

As part of an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), OCWD has created more than 800 acres of bird habitat for the least Bell's vireo and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher in the Prado Basin.

OCWD's vireo program has been one of California's great environmental success stories. When the program began in 1986, there were only 19 pairs of vireo in the Prado Basin. Today, the basin hosts the largest population of this endangered species in existence. In 2014, there were 172 known breeding pairs in the basin and 481 pairs outside of Prado.

OCWD helped create the Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA) to lead in the removal of a water guzzling, invasive grass called Arundo donax (Giant Reed) from the watershed. Removing this non-native grass and replanting with native plants not only restores a more water-efficient, natural habitat but also conserves precious water supplies saving 18,000 acre-feet of water annually–about $6.7 million each year. SAWA has removed 5,000 acres of Arundo donax.

With so little water in the river during the past few drought summers, it is impossible to keep water in all of OCWD's facilities. The District has worked to make certain that water is provided to its constructed sea bird nesting island in Burris Basin for Forester's Terns, endangered California Least Terns, Black Skimmers, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Gadwall, Mallards, and Spotted Sandpipers, among others. Keeping water in that facility has been a priority.

OCWD has taken a holistic approach, giving comparable importance to water quality and supply and environmental stewardship and has created a mutually-beneficial ecosystem.

Finally, we'd like to acknowledge that the cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has made it all possible.